Psychologists define emotions as mental responses to events, circumstances, people, or our own thoughts and memories. They course through our conscious and unconscious beings at all times, whether at critical junctures or during seemingly inconsequential moments of our lives.
Fear, joy, anger: such powerful feelings are what we generally think of when we hear the term "emotion." Psychologists define emotions as mental responses to events, circumstances, people, or our own thoughts and memories. They course through our conscious and unconscious beings at all times, whether at critical junctures or during seemingly inconsequential moments of our lives.
Biologists tells us that our emotions are rooted in self-preservation, triggering physiological reactions that enable us to find food, escape danger and reproduce. For example, fear increases the flow of blood to the muscles, making it easier to run or take flight, while the love we display to our offspring ultimately helps to ensure the continuation of our genes.
Noting that the word "emotion" stems from the Latin verb for "move," author Daniel Goleman pointed out in Emotional Intelligence, "All emotions are, in essence, impulses to act, the instant plans for handling life that evolution has instilled in us."
In higher social species, like humans, emotions have also evolved into facial expressions and body language so that each member of the group can signal his or her wants and needs to other members. As John D. Mayer, a leading expert in the study of emotions, has remarked: "Emotions convey information ... about relationships."
Whether in the decisions we make or the way we conduct our relationships, emotions have enormous sway over our lives. They even have the power to make us sick or to cure us.
While people have known for centuries that people suffering from the loss of a loved one face a greater risk of premature death, we have only recently learned why. We now know that emotions are relayed to the immune system through a shared link, the autonomic nervous system. As a result, *grief and other painful emotions can cause our immune system to shut down, putting us at risk for a whole host of illnesses. Conversely, a healthy emotional outlook boosts our resistance to disease. These findings have given rise to the new field of psychoneuroimmunology (PNI), which seeks to map out the connection between psychological processes like emotions and the body's natural defences. It complements psychosomatic or holistic medicine, which treats bodily disorders that have direct psychological causes.
Mayer has emphasized, "People can reason with emotions in the same way they reason with cognitive information. So you can solve emotional problems just as mathematicians solve math problems."
But Mayer and other researchers acknowledge that some emotions, like grief and anger, can be harder to reason effectively with than others. And in many situations, identifying the various emotions at play can be extremely difficult.
Emotions are the nucleus of emotional life, giving rise to three broader groupings: moods, which gauge emotions as they persist over an extended period of time; temperaments, a predisposition towards certain emotions; and disorders, such as clinical *depression or *addictions, which usually call for professional treatment.